The loopool Field Recordings Project:
Starting in February of 2011 loopool began releasing field recordings as free online downloads. The project ran for 52 weeks, every Sunday a new recording being made available. The Field Recordings Project was conceived for two reasons: first and foremost the project was to be an exercise in discipline, and secondly the whole endeavor was designed to be a free resource for other sound artists to utilize in one giant remote collaboration and sharing of information. The project was a great success with many artists participating and a wide variety of works being created from / with the material. The primary objectives of the Field Recordings Project were met, an entire year of recordings were created and shared with the world, and the collaborative aspect was embraced by many talented people; but on top of this many things came to light during the process and many unexpected things arose. The following are some of the shifts in perception and unanticipated results of the project.
The weekly exercise of finding new locations that produced interesting sonic aspects was at times a difficult one, especially within urban environments. Once these environments were found and the equipment set up for the recordings the only thing left to do was to sit in utter silence and allow the sounds to be captured. The silence of the listener was paramount in allowing the environment to produce sounds without intervention, it's natural state. Not being accustomed to being quiet is one of the tragic flaws of our modern culture. In these outings / exercises in listening, a marvelous calm was found to be the result, not being part of the flow of sounds but merely an observer. When you find yourself in this role your mind tends to drift and gets lost in the subtle movements of the soundscape and after many weeks it was realized that this was a form of meditation that had calming effects even in the most hectic of places. The results of stopping to listen to what is around you are enlightening and bring to the surface many interesting things that would otherwise be ignored, within and externally.
At first listen to almost any environment most of the sounds being produced are not heard. Active listening is something that is quite rare because the brain is designed to filter out most background noise so that attention can be paid to what is the foreground of focus. With the Field Recordings Project is was of the utmost importance to hear and trap these background and foreground sounds but in order for them to be located in the first place a shift in perception had to occur, allowing the usually filtered out sounds to come to the foreground. While it may seem that this would be a simple process it is actually something that requires a bit of training. Take a minute in any given situation to close your eyes and try to notice all of the noises that are occurring around you. You will find that there are almost an endless variety of them and most are not perceived without the intention of perceiving them. After a full year of listening in this manner the perception of aural events has become a different process than it was before the project. Distance is one of the many things that has been altered, our ears are designed in such a way that they allow us to gauge our relative position to the things around us. Many of the sounds that we ignore are ignored because of their proximity to us which makes them not necessarily
important (at least in the context of our immediate survival), yet the soundscape is vast and the sounds within earshot are incredibly wider than they would seem.
While what is considered to be noise pollution varies from person to person it is something that has become nearly unavoidable, particularly in, but not limited to, urban environments. For each of the 52 field recordings in the series perhaps three more were made and discarded. These unsuccessful recordings were not used and did not come out for a variety of reasons. Some of the main reasons for these failures were the excess of noises created by traffic on the ground and in the air. For instance during the editing of the recordings it came to light that within Los Angeles it is rare to not hear at least one helicopter every five minutes if not more. The sounds of ground traffic are also heavy in the urban environment and tend to obscure the subtle sounds that are desirable for capture. Everyone has experienced those moments of almost unnatural calm, when it seems as though something is about to happen. These moments are merely the absence of the noise pollution that we have grown accustomed to and it is a shame the rich amount of beautiful and quiet sounds that are lost because of it.
Context of Sounds:
A pleasing result of capturing the soundscapes of various environments was noticed in the playback of the recordings. When sounds are removed from the original source the source becomes obscured and is not always obvious. A joyous sound emitted from someone may be perceived as a cry of fear when the facial expression is unseen. Our visual perception in large part dictates the way we hear many sounds. Having the visual information removed from the soundscape allows for the context of the sounds to be manipulated in endless ways and thus heard differently, sometimes in a pleasing fashion and at other times in startling and unforeseen ways.
Focal Point and Naming the Sounds:
One challenge in the capture and naming of these sound recordings was that the main sound or focal point being recorded was inevitably joined by many other sounds and noises. At times what seemed to be the main focus was obscured almost entirely by sounds which seemed at first to be background and secondary, or not heard at all while in the field. This effect could be rewarding or sometimes annoying depending on the secondary noises that were introduced into the foreground, but serves as proof that what we hear is certainly not all that is occurring and many beautiful or interesting sounds escape us because our attention is routed towards other focal points, many times as the result of the other sensory input we are receiving.
Places Without Music:
It is debatable what the original purposes of music were and in a way it is still debatable what music's purpose is, but one thing that is certain is that the environment in which music is used has greatly expanded. The playing of music is no longer limited to the places of worship or the home. Today it is almost impossible to go anywhere without hearing music; it is played in all shops, heard flowing out of
peoples cars and in some areas pumped through loudspeakers into the streets. This proliferation of music has in a way diminished the intensity of the effect that music has on us. No longer is it a sacred medium. This is unfortunate for many reasons, something that once had magical properties has now become commonplace. Because the purpose of the Field Recordings Project was to capture "raw" sound environments, purposeful music was avoided. In this day it has grown exceedingly difficult to get away from music and hear the soundscape as it unfolds in its own way.
Cell Phone Interference:
A major and unforeseen problem in field recording is the startling amount of cell phone interference present in many locations. The bandwidth that cell phones transmit at effects many devices used for the recording of sound and produce a very ugly and abrasive rhythmic pattern. This interference had a large part in the failure of so many recordings.
Difficulties in the Capture of Sonic Environments:
On top of some of the difficulties already mentioned there are several others worth noting. For instance, wind is something that we may not notice at all times, yet gusts and breezes are prevalent in almost any environment. Wind can get in the way of recordings depending on the equipment used. While wind is definitely not a bad thing in the grand scheme it is something that has to be dealt with during the capture of sound, noticing the wind is just one more expansion in perception (a tactile one) that came about in the year of listening and recording. Another issue that became problematic is the interference of other humans. It was noted that the general public has an aversion to having equipment set up near them. It seems that the presence of recording equipment audio or visual is seen as an invasion of privacy or stimulates curiosity. The latter was an issue at times as people would approach the equipment and ask about it. While their curiosity was welcome it did interfere with many recordings.
First and foremost loopool would like to thank all of the artists who contributed their material to the project. Their time, dedication and willingness to listen made the whole project worthwhile and serves as an inspiration! loopool would also like to encourage all to stop and listen to the environment around them, there are many pleasures and surprises that evade us solely for the lack of taking a minute to notice them, the richness of life is complex and varied, enjoy it. Also loopool would like it known that after the release of this compilation the next phase of the project will begin: the loopool Stock Footage Project, wherein stock footage will be released every week for film makers to edit their own films from, the only criteria will be the use of these tracks from the compilation as the soundtrack.
List of Collaborators:
Briana Jones, Cathartech, Count Constantin, DJ Kaos, Don Haugen, Dr. Auxiliary, Eagleson, Gitane DeMone, Human Nihil, J. Simpson, Lee Noyes, Matthew Embry, noisepoetnobody, Oneirothopter, Platzangst, Seeing Red,
Shark Egg Blues, Syphilis Sauna, the Noisettes, the Zero Collective, the Uncondemning Monk, Thomas Park, and Travis Johnson